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How to Bake a Perfect Life

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  6,481 ratings  ·  799 reviews
In a novel as warm and embracing as a family kitchen, Barbara O’Neal explores the poignant, sometimes complex relationships between mothers and daughters—and the healing magic of homemade bread.
Professional baker Ramona Gallagher is a master of an art that has sustained her through the most turbulent times, including a baby at fifteen and an endless family feud. But no
Paperback, 416 pages
Published December 21st 2010 by Bantam
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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,481 ratings  ·  799 reviews

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Kimberly Kincaid
Feb 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I really, really enjoyed this! O'Neal's description is just stunning, and I felt like I knew every nook of her bakery/house (and loved it). The characters were lovely while still being flawed (even when they did ugly things-- which wasn't often, but this is life-- you knew they weren't ugly people. They were so real!). I loved how masterfully she wrote the layers of each character, and that everyone had a journey in the book. The book did "jump" from character to character (smoothly, in my opini ...more
From the blurb:
In a novel as warm and embracing as a family kitchen, Barbara O’Neal explores the poignant, sometimes complex relationships between mothers and daughters—and the healing magic of homemade bread.

The title says it all. Add a little bit of Hallmark romance to it, and everything is said and done. There's romantic fluff, for sure. But surprisingly no martini and stiletto undertones, and that basically, makes this book a really good read.

Okay, a good read if you believe in real people
Deborah Blake
Jan 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't have the words to describe how much I loved this book. It is warm, funny, and entertaining while still being poignant and heart-breakingly real. It's like a mug of hot chocolate on a frosty cold day...with a shot of Bailey's in it. And as with all of O'Neal's books, the recipes are a great bonus.

Ramona Gallagher is a professional baker who is one plumbing disaster away from losing everying, including her business and her grandmother's falling-apart Victorian. To complicate things, her ve
"Bread I know. Bread I love."

This statement described Ramona Gallagher's life. She ran her bakery out of a seen-for-better-days Victorian home once owned by her grandmother. Her daughter taking an unexpected trip to Germany, a broken water pipe, a soon-to-be visiting teenager and a dog needing rescue: these were just a few of the things that were affecting her day.

The story was told by three generations of females: Ramona, her daughter, Sofia, and Sofia's stepdaughter, Katie. Normally I don't ca
Julia Ce
I liked this book very much. I liked the interaction between all of the characters and their individual story lines flowed together very well. This book also made me think about different parenting styles for different generations and how do we avoid the parenting mistakes our parents & grandparents made. There were a few loose ends that the author never tied up, but not enough to take away from my enjoyment of the book.

Main Characters
Ramona - the main character an early 40 year old baker, sing
Jeanne Adamek
May 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully magical book written so clearly that I could feel, touch, taste, see and smell everything! I felt like a voyeur and enjoyed myself immensely. A definite "Feel Good" book with a satisfying end. ...more
Ramona finds herself well and truly thrown in the deep end when her daughter, Sophia, travels to Germany to be with her husband who suffered critical and life threatening injuries in the Iraq war. With Sophia in Germany, Ramona finds herself looking after her step-daughter Katie who has come from an impoverished and uncaring home.

Over the months, Katie slowly starts to trust Ramona and feel a measure of stability. But every time she starts to feel like she belongs something happens which remind
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Carol W.
Some books come into your life at just the right time. This one has been sitting on my shelf, but I'm going through some rough times now and wanted something that would be a comforting read. This was a perfect fit. It's not all sweetness and light. There are some very sad elements to the book - an Iraq war veteran who becomes a drug addict and damages the life of her child, an Afghan war soldier who is horrifically injured in the war. But at its heart this is a nurturing book about mothers and d ...more
Aug 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am just amazed at how this author writes! I've read one other book by her and I loved it also.... her character development starts right off the bat and by page 5 you are invested in everyone in her stories. The relationships between her characters, the settings, the recipes..... her phrases and word choices.... just AMAZING!!!! I highly recommend this book as well as The Lost Recipe of Happiness by her. ...more
VillaPark Public Library
Mar 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
How to Bake a Perfect Life A Novel by Barbara O'Neal
How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O’Neal is the perfect recipe for an enjoyable read. Ramona Gallagher has weathered everything from becoming a single mother at age 15 to enduring an ongoing family feud that affects her current business situation. She operates a successful bread bakery in her inherited Colorado Springs Victorian home but the slow economy and a series of small mishaps threaten her business and home. Her daughter Sofia receives a call that her soldier husband has been badl
Angela Mcclanahan
Jun 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I love her books! This book follows a woman, who is a baker, through her life. I love how it is like I am watching a snapshot of this woman's life. I see the entire gambit of emotions from deep sorrow to true love and everything in between. The characters in the book go through everyday life and all the challenges and surprises that go with it. If you haven't read this author before then you are in for a treat. She always writes about some type of cook or baker and then includes recipes in the s ...more
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The mother-daughter relationship is complex,unique,often dramatic.Ramona is an independent spirit, raising her daughter, building a business. The book gives voice to the family history that has landed Ramona where she finds herself and winds around to come full circle.
I found this to be a deeply satisfying read. This family of strong women resonated with me. Each generation knows the basic recipe for mother love but each must tweak it to fit the their individual needs and situation. And each g
Chris Conley
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
What an interwoven story with delightful characters.
Just - The romance reader
May 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: at-library
The story had everything that a girl like me loves - baking, an awesome dog, a bakery, a bit of drama, some romance and a happy ending. Ramona is such a great character. She's so strong and compassionate, really, truly caring about those in her life. She has some struggles but no matter she's willing to sacrifice for her loved ones. And Katie, poor sweet Katie has seen way too much in her young life, but she's an old soul who has taken those bad experiences and struggles and turned them into lif ...more
Mar 31, 2011 rated it liked it
Generally a cute story...sort of your typical chick-lit book. I bumped it up to 3 stars for the recipes alone..My gosh, the recipes look so fantastic. I am loving the fact that authors are starting to do recipes with their someone who loves to cook, it is just something that makes them stand out and go POW! And let me add, I have gotten some pretty terrific recipes from these types of books and authors web sites.
Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
lovely and soulful. you will want to gather your mother and daughter and bake something. spend time doing things you love and eat good food and plant something. really enjoyed this one. my favorite part..."well, what if it isn't a big mistake? what if this is only something that happened, something that's different from the things most of your friends are doing but not bad. maybe it's extraordinary, to help you become an extraordinary person." ...more
Mar 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sonja by: Kimberly Kincaid
I wish it was possible to add stars for those particular books that blow over the top...because this is one of them. Wow. Captures the complicated relationships within families, and the fear, guilt, insecurity, and other swirling emotions of Katie are portrayed extremely well.
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a fabulous book. The title and cover are not fitting in my opinion. They make it seem like a light read when it is anything but... so many things happening on these pages throughout the story, it was just so much more than I was expecting, in a good way...
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
This book was such an enjoyable read and to get some delectable recipes for breads and muffins just added to my delight. My only true criticism was Ramona's relationship with her family and how she allowed them to treat her. I just felt she was strong enough to stand up for herself and not allow them to beat her up so badly. But that's what makes a good book, is the author's development of all the characters. ...more
Melissa Storm
I loved this book! Very deep characters and a compelling storyline, both past and present. Even though this book wasn't a romance, Ramona's and Jonah's love story is probably the most touching I've ever read--and that's saying something. Highly recommend for fans of both literary fiction and romance. ...more
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book was another amazing one from one of my favorite authors. Ramona was tough and stubborn but with such a love for her daughter and a desire to help struggling Sofia. The romance was perfectly yummy and so was the baking. I loved this book.
Dec 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-read
Really enjoyed this book and recommend it as a heart touching chic-lit read!!
Susan Andersen
Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
I laughed, I sighed, I cried my eyes out. Loved it!
Anne Pisacano
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Barbara O'Neal writes such full stories. Characters with full lives, as if they were real people. And, what I love is the depth of story, and the length! I can linger, and it’s not over before I’ve had a chance to immerse myself. The words and beautiful, and the description of food is amazing. This is the third novel of hers that I've read. A new favorite author for me! ...more
Sandy H
Apr 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: artquiltmaker, quiltingranny
Recommended to Sandy by: Tanesha
Shelves: fiction, chick-lit
VAGUE SPOILER ALERT (although some of my points hint at story lines I don't think there are any direct spoilers.

How to Bake a Perfect Life was an enjoyable read, although I liked some elements of the story line much more than others. I loved reading about the relationships between Ramona and Katie, Ramona and Sofia, and Sofia and Oscar. On the flip side, I found the parts about Ramona and Jonah pretty dull, frankly. Perhaps because it smacked a bit "typical romance novel" whereas the other rela
Andrea Hurst
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I truly enjoyed this book that weaves together some deep themes, being open to love whatever form it takes, and incredible sounding bread baking! Excellent writer.
Leslie Clingan
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I selected this book to fit the bill for a reading challenge prompt "a book that is cozy". The word 'bake' in the title made me feel cozy, in addition to the image of the pup on the cover and the woman - our main character, Ramona - in an apron with a mixing spoon. Kitchens and baking and puppies are pretty cozy to my way of thinking.

This is Ramona's story. A struggling mom, daughter, granddaughter and entrepreneur whose bakery is on the brink of insolvency. While life has never been easy for Ra
Aug 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiftyfiftyme
I loved How to Bake a Perfect Life. LOVED it. Read it in less than 2 days. Couldn't put it down, couldn't go to bed because I was so into it. I've read a lot of the other reviews that say it's typical chick-lit, but I don't know what kind of chick-lit those people are reading. This has some depth and deals with emotion and growth through generations of women. Sure it was predictable, but whatever. Do we read for surprises, or for the story, how it unfolds, how characters learn and grow? Do we ju ...more
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Barbara O'Neal is the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling writer of women's fiction. She lives in Colorado with her partner, a British endurance athlete.


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Secrets between siblings, grandparents with grievances, parents with problems. If you're looking for serious drama, check out these new...
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“EASY SOURDOUGH STARTER Technically, the best sourdough starters are made without commercial yeast, but it’s easier to understand the properties of a sponge if you make an easy one to begin with. This one is simple and reliable. 2 cups potato water (water in which potatoes have been boiled until soft), lukewarm ½ cup rye flour ½ cup whole-wheat flour 1 cup unbleached white flour 2 tsp dry yeast In a 2-quart jar, mix the water, flours, and yeast until smooth. Cover loosely with cheesecloth and let stand in a warm spot, stirring every 24 hours, until bubbly and agreeably sour, usually 4–10 days. Taste it every day to know how it is progressing. When it is ready, store loosely covered in the fridge, refreshing it once a week by throwing away half the starter and adding 1 cup water, 1 cup white flour. Can be used in bread recipes, biscuits, pancakes, even corn bread.” 0 likes
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